Stella Smith is a facilitator, trainer and coach who helps leading organisations boost performance through strengthening their people’s skills and confidence in management and leadership. Hear Stella's view on working with external consultants.

Looking to work with a consultant? We’ve all been there, valiantly ploughing through our task list in the hope that one day we might actually get the space and time for the exciting initiatives we really want to do.  It’s said that if you ‘do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’.  If you are struggling to find some headspace and a need an injection of fresh thinking, maybe it’s time to tear yourself away from the usual routine and call in an external consultant.  

For many of us a management consultant might seem like the last thing we want when we’re under pressure.   They conjure up images of formal suits and briefcases, aloof individuals casting a stern eye over our less than perfect work practices, disapproving of our messy desk, telling us what we already know, but offering no real help in taking things forward.

It doesn’t have to be like that though.  Managed well, a consultant can help you see things from a different perspective, challenge habitual thinking, highlight quick wins and strengthen your focus on what really matters.  The key to making your consultant work well, is thinking through what you need and getting someone suited to you and your organisation’s style.
So if you think a consultant could help you, here are a few questions to spark your thinking.  They may not all be relevant to every situation, but just might give you some food for thought.
What do you want them to achieve? If you want your consultant to be successful, then you need to know what success looks like - what will you know or see or have experienced by the end of their work which will indicate success. 

What will be different? What are the deliverables?  How will you evaluate the success of the work?
How will you get them up to speed? Timing - When is a good time to do it? Who will be the key contact?

Whilst the consultant will come with expertise in their particular discipline, they will be an outsider to your work, so have a think about what sort of information or knowledge they will need for the work.  Do you have useful documentation or past research you could give them?  Are there any other organisations or groups they could talk to?  Also think about putting your consultant in touch with key stakeholders who could be critical to success later on and might expect to be involved.
If you need a time when the usual workload has quietened down, it maybe the August lull or December festive break is a good time to do the work.  However, if you need to involve lots of people, find a time when people are less likely to be on holiday.  Also consider what else is going on – are there other major deadlines you need to hit?  Is there a big event which might distract attention?  Plan around these critical dates. 
You will need to nominate one person who will be the key contact for the consultant, who will be able to advise and guide them and take forward any further work after they’ve gone.  Ideally it needs to be someone senior enough to implement recommendations but not so busy that the consultant’s work gets held up because they can’t contact them.  
None of the above questions need more than a quick brainstorm, but with just this little bit of planning, you can get so much more out of your consultant and free up your time for that all important strategic blue sky thinking!  

We would like to offer our thanks to Stella for writing this piece for us. If you're interested in learning more about our free management consultancy, get in touch today.


Stella Smith is a facilitator, trainer and coach who helps leading organisations boost performance through strengthening their people’s skills and confidence in management and leadership. She set up her business in 2006 and since then has worked with a small team of Associates to deliver a range of assignments across Europe and Africa in both commercial and not for profit environments.

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